Parent Resources

Normal Development: Early Adolescence (12 to 14 Years Old)

Adolescence is divided into 3 stages: early (12 to 14 years), middle (15 to 17 years), and late (18 to 20 years). While certain attitudes, behaviors, and physical milestones tend to occur at certain ages, a wide spectrum of growth and behavior for each age is normal. Consequently, these guidelines are offered as a way of showing a general progression through the developmental stages rather than as fixed requirements. It is perfectly natural for a teen to attain some milestones earlier and other milestones later than the general trend.

Physical Development

  • May experience adolescent growth spurt (girls usually develop 2 years earlier than boys).
    • girls: changes in fat distribution, pubic hair, breast development; start of menstrual period
    • boys: testicular growth, voice changes, pubic hair, "wet dreams"
  • May try to experiment with body (masturbation).

Emotional Development

  • May have moody behavior.
  • Struggles with sense of identity.
  • Is sensitive and has a need for privacy.
  • Is anxious due to increased social and academic stresses.
  • Starts to look for loving relationships outside of family.
  • May become opinionated and challenge family rules and values.
  • May try to "show-off."

Social Development

  • Becomes increasingly self-sufficient.
  • Usually seeks out friends with beliefs and values similar to those of his or her family.
  • May be preoccupied by appearance.
  • Influenced by peers about clothes and interests.
  • May be influenced by peers to try risky behaviors (alcohol, tobacco, sex).

Mental Development

  • Mostly bases judgments on concrete rules of right and wrong, good or bad.
  • Thinks in terms of the present rather than the future.
  • May start to think abstractly and about complex issues.

If you have any concerns related to your teen's own pattern of development, check with your health care provider.